You’ve probably heard the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
It’s a popular metaphor that means you must take care of yourself before you can care for others.
And it’s true – if you’re not feeling your best, you won’t be able to do your best work.
As much as you may need to put yourself first, it’s more complicated than you think.
Is it selfish or wrong to focus on yourself?
Society often suggests it is, but more often than not, you do yourself and those around you a favor by prioritizing your needs before those of others.
What Does It Mean to Focus on Yourself?
We live in a culture where we are discouraged from prioritizing ourselves, so it may be challenging to know what it looks like to focus on yourself.
Focusing on yourself means making yourself a priority in your life. It means taking care of yourself emotionally, mentally, and physically to be the best version of yourself.
Here is what it can look like to put yourself first:
- Making time for yourself, even when you’re busy.
- Being honest with yourself about your needs and wants.
- Listening to your body and taking care of your physical health.
- Taking breaks when you need them and saying “no” when you need to.
- Setting boundaries with others and sticking to them.
- Speaking kindly to yourself and treating yourself with compassion.
Focusing on yourself isn’t selfish – it simply means taking care of yourself so you can be your best for yourself and the people in your life. When you focus on taking care of yourself, everyone around you benefits.
What Are the Benefits of Focusing on Yourself?
Focusing on yourself, especially if you’ve been neglecting your own needs, can come with many benefits. Maybe you’ve put everyone else’s needs above your own for so long that you don’t know what it feels like to focus on yourself.
Here are some benefits of making yourself a priority:
- You’ll have more energy to focus on the things and people you love.
- You’ll be better able to handle stress and difficult situations.
- You’ll be more productive in all areas of your life.
- Your relationships will improve because you’ll set boundaries and communicate your needs.
- You’ll feel happier and more fulfilled.
- You’ll be better able to care for the people in your life.
Some of these benefits may take time, but the good news is that many begin as soon as you embrace self-care practices.
How to Focus on Yourself: 13 Essential Ways You Should Put Yourself First
Now that you know some of the benefits of focusing on yourself let’s dive into how you can do just that.
As you read through the possibilities below, consider which ones you need to address first to find your center and reclaim your well-being.
1. Set Healthy Boundaries
To focus on yourself, you need to set boundaries with the people in your life. Learn to say “no” when required and set clear expectations for how you want others to treat you. When you have firm boundaries, you protect your time and energy so you can focus on taking care of yourself.
To set healthy boundaries, start by identifying your non-negotiables – the things you will not tolerate from others.
From there, communicate them to the people in your life. If someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, it may be time to distance yourself from that person.
Setting boundaries is one of the primary ways to focus on yourself. It helps you create space to focus on what you need.
2. Get Support From Friends and Family
Our friends and family are the people we spend the most time with, so they must support our efforts to focus on ourselves.
If you’re feeling unsupported, start by talking to your loved ones about what you need from them.
Maybe you need help with childcare so you can have some time for yourself, or perhaps you just need someone to listen to you vent about your day. Whatever it is, let your loved ones know so they can be there for you.
You need to communicate with your romantic partner and co-workers as well. Often, people want to help but don’t know how. Telling them what you need can make a world of difference.
3. Get Professional Support
If your loved ones still aren’t meeting your needs, consider seeking professional support through therapy, counseling, or a life coach.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, getting help from a professional who can provide guidance and support is essential.
Some professionals can help you with things like time management and goal setting. If you need help getting your life on track, consider reaching out to a professional who can help you get started.
4. Take Care of Your Home
Our homes are a direct reflection of our inner lives, so keeping them clean and clutter-free is valuable. When our homes are chaotic, it can add to our stress levels and make it harder to focus on taking care of ourselves.
Set aside weekly time to tidy up your home and eliminate clutter. You might also want to consider doing a deep cleaning once a month to get rid of any accumulated dirt and grime.
Redesigning your home is another way to bring new life into your space. If your home is outdated or doesn’t feel like “you,” consider making changes to reflect your current taste.
Adding aspirational or supportive decor can be nurturing. For example, if you make a vision board and place it in a prominent spot, you’ll be reminded of your goals every time you see it.
You can also add plants to your home for some extra greenery and life. Not only do they look nice, but they also purify the air and boost our moods.
5. Revitalize Your Diet
The word “diet” is a complicated one regarding self-care. It can be associated with deprivation, which is the opposite of what we’re going for here.
Instead of thinking of a diet as a way to lose weight, think of it as a way to nourish your body and one of the ways to focus on yourself. Try eating whole, unprocessed foods that will give you the energy you need to take care of yourself.
It’s also important to drink plenty of water and avoid sugary drinks. Sugar is a quick fix that gives you a temporary energy boost, but it will ultimately leave you feeling worse.
If you’re unsure where to start, plenty of resources are available to help you get started on a healthy diet. Remember to focus on what you like and want to consume more of instead of foods you want to limit.
If you’re incorporating new fresh foods and plenty of hydration into your diet, you will slowly crowd out the toxins over time.
6. Start a Gratitude Practice
Sometimes we don’t need to add anything when we work on ourselves. We simply need to pause, listen, and be thankful for what we already have. Instead of considering your privilege as a given, think of it as a gift.
One way to change your perspective is with a gratitude practice. Each day, take a few minutes to write down things you’re grateful for.
They could include anything from your bed to your favorite shoes to a person you love. The key is to focus on the good in your life, no matter how small it may seem.
Gratitude improves our moods and increases our overall satisfaction with life. You might also want to try other gratitude-based activities like keeping a gratitude jar or writing thank-you notes.
7. Embrace Journaling
Many of us haven’t written down our feelings since we had a diary in middle school. But journaling can be a powerful tool for self-care. It allows us to process our thoughts and feelings in a safe space without judgment.
There are no rules for journaling, so you can write about whatever you want, whenever you want. You might want to try free writing, where you just write down whatever comes to mind without stopping to edit or revise.
Another approach is to focus on a specific topic or prompt – anything from “What are my fears?” to “What are three things I’m grateful for?” You can also use journaling to track your moods, habits, and goals.
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8. Move Your Body
Some view self-care as a time of rest and recovery. This view is accurate, and it’s essential to pause in life from time to time and give our bodies a break. But that doesn’t mean we should be inactive all the time.
Movement is an essential part of self-care. Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. It can also help reduce stress, improve sleep, and increase energy levels.
You don’t have to go to the gym to get moving. There are plenty of ways to incorporate movement into your everyday life. Taking a brisk walk in your neighborhood or dancing around your living room are just a few examples.
So, the next time you’re feeling low, try getting up and moving your body. It just might be the pick-me-up you need.
9. Carve Out “Me Time”
Even though we are desperate for time to prioritize ourselves, the intention gets lost in neverending schedules and to-do lists. If you find the obligations in your life never leave enough free time to focus on yourself, it’s time to make some changes.
It might mean saying no to social plans or cutting your work hours. It could also involve delegating tasks to others or simplifying your schedule. Whatever it looks like for you, make sure you’re carving out time each day, week, or month just for you.
Writing it down or sending it out as a memo makes it much more likely to happen, so try to be as specific as possible.
For example, you could say, “I’m taking an hour for myself every Tuesday evening to read, soak in the tub, and relax,” or “I’m going to bed 30 minutes early every night this week so I can get some extra rest.”
Then, stick to your plan and enjoy your well-deserved break.
10. Nurture a Hobby
People thrive when they have something to look forward to outside work or daily obligations. A hobby can give you a boost of motivation and energy.
Hobbies also provide a sense of joy, accomplishment, and connection. They can be a much-needed outlet for creativity and self-expression.
Don’t have a hobby? There are endless possibilities you can choose from. You could try gardening, hiking, biking, cooking, baking, painting, writing, photography, or anything else that interests you.
11. Practice Meditation
Meditation is one of the best ways to calm the mind and relax the body. It’s a simple practice that anyone can do and doesn’t require any special equipment or training.
It helps us to eliminate distractions, and external distractions are the main reason we can’t focus on ourselves.
There are many different types of meditation, but one of the most popular is mindfulness meditation. This meditation involves focusing your attention on the present moment and letting go of thoughts about the past or future.
You can try it yourself by finding a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. If your mind wanders, simply redirect your attention back to your breath.
Start with a few minutes of meditation each day and gradually increase the time as you become more comfortable with the practice.
12. Start Using Affirmations
Affirmations are positive statements that can help to change your thinking and improve your mood. When you repeat them to yourself, they can help to challenge negative thoughts and beliefs.
There are endless affirmations you could use, but some examples include, “I am worthy of love and respect,” “I am capable of reaching my goals,” or “I am deserving of happiness.”
You can use affirmations in any situation, but they can be beneficial when feeling down or stressed.
Repeat them to yourself throughout the day, and try to use ones that you believe. They will help you change your mindset with time and practice, so you have the will to take action.
When we have an abundance of self-care, it’s only natural to want to share it with others. After all, caring for ourselves is one of the most loving things we can do.
Sharing your self-care with others is a great way to show them that you care about them and are willing to invest in your relationship. It can also be a fun and bonding experience.
Some ways to share self-care with others include giving them a massage, taking them on a relaxing outing, cooking them a healthy meal, or simply spending time together doing something you both enjoy.
Whatever you do, make sure it’s something that will leave both of you feeling good.
Is It Ok to Focus on Yourself and Not Others?
It’s understandable to focus on others and put their needs first. And sometimes, it makes sense to tend to another person’s needs before yours.
So when is it ok to focus on yourself? Here are a few guidelines:
- When you’re in danger or need to take care of an emergency
- When you have a commitment, and you don’t want to break it
- If you need to make a decision that empowers you professionally and supports your goals
- When you’re physically or emotionally exhausted and need to recharge
- Whenever someone is non-consensually sucking your energy or taking advantage of you
Use these situations as indicators that it’s time to slow down, look inward, and decide what you need to feel better.
Once you attend to yourself in these situations, you’ll gain more energy to help others.
You may not know how to stop worrying about others and focus on yourself. It may feel uncomfortable and make you feel guilty.
Remember that it’s not selfish to prioritize your own needs. In fact, it’s the opposite of selfishness. It’s self-preserving and necessary to live authentically and give your best to others.
Remember that you’re doing the right thing the next time you feel guilty for focusing on yourself. Your happiness and well-being should always be a priority.